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Sofia Paderes Aug 2021
When news broke out that the glorious White Building
was to become dust to make way for a high rise
that would displace both bones and ghosts,
we were standing in a parking lot, my friends’ fists
clutched tight around their motorcycle handles,
their rapid Khmer lilting with each syllable
as they quickly planned a memorial service
for another shard of history that once did not have
blood dripping from where it had been broken.

My nickname was Country Girl, clueless and silly,
full of questions, songs and dances, a patched-up mess
with the face of a Vietnamese, the laugh of a Filipino,
and the pride of a maybe, sometimes, almost Khmer.

We left just as the city was starting to wake again.
In journalism school, they never taught us
how to grieve for ourselves, so we tried
in the best way we knew how -- a funeral procession
of worn rubber shoes and checkered polos,
in our backpacks the cameras that would write our eulogies for us.
I was the stranger whose connection to the deceased no one
understood, but still let in,
taught me a prayer,
offered some porridge.

That afternoon, I whispered a prayer.
White Building, who stares death in the face,
once a mother to the hands that had colored
their age gold, please welcome me.

Do not let your skeleton
collapse beneath the weight of this stranger.

Please, welcome me.
It was sometime around June 2017 when my classmates and I found out that the historic White Building in Phnom Penh was going to be torn down to make way for a 21-storey high rise. My friends quickly organised a photowalk, and we made our way to the remains of what used to be home to many Khmer artists in the sixties. We spent the entire afternoon exploring the building— capturing corners, faces and stories our feet would never be able to return to again.
Sofia Paderes Oct 2020
At first break of darkness blanketing the sky,
my chest anchors itself to my bed,
a paralyzed prisoner in the war that wages in my head.
I am attacker, defender, and bystander.
Always the victim, never the victor.
Taking the first, the second, each and every hit.

I am filled with the emptiness of a sunken ship.
Nowhere to sail to but the depths that surround.
In this deep I call home, I’ve not learned to breathe.
With every heave, I am dragged further into all I wish to leave.

Here, it’s all tunnel and no light.
An endless race with no finish line.

Before me, unknown.
Beside me, nothing but questions and fears.
Behind me, darkness chases. Shame clutches.

There is no ear to hear me,
I am surrounded.
No arms to save me,
I am surrounded,
I just need to learn that I
am surrounded, and this
is how it always will be.

Darkness surrounding.
Before me, beside me, behind me.

Some days I dare to dream of a day
where my heart isn’t wrung out,
torn out, twisted up, mangled and left
to bleed its anxious beats dry,
and some days I try.
I swear I try.

But when the thoughts you battle with
are all just your own, truth is a shapeshifter.
Fear, my commander; insecurity, my shield,
I hold a weapon that pierces who wields it,
having no one else but myself to blame.

Do not speak to me of light,
do you not think I’ve tried?
But though I see, though I reach,
fog and mist are all my hands hold,
besides I’ve been told that hope
is just a lie to keep the weak alive,
protecting them from the reality that
all light does is deepen the dark.

Before me, unknown.
Beside me, nothing but questions and fears.
Behind me, darkness chases. Shame clutches.

There is no ear to hear me,
I am surrounded.
No arms to save me,
I am surrounded,
I just need to learn that I
am surrounded, and this
is how it always will be.

Darkness surrounding.
Before me, beside me, behind me.

Or maybe, I’m just too afraid to seek.
Too broken to face
whatever it is that could be
something much stronger
than everything I feel,
than everything I see.

But even when I've let go,
there is something that doesn't,
and I am no match for Him.
He dares
to look me in the eye when I
refuse to see Him, when I
can barely lift my head
Love has decided
that I'm not too broken for healing,
that I'm not too lost for seeking,
that Love is that something much greater
than all the darkness surrounding.

Hope breathes its truth
into my dry, brittle bones,
makes itself known,
now I know that what I know
isn't all there is to behold,
and now I'm told that my
reality does exist but it isn't

My pain is real, but so is peace.
My trials overwhelm, but so does grace.
My heart weighs heavy, but it's
nothing that can't be carried.
My mind is in constant battle, but in a
war already long won.

Darkness did its best to veil me,
to make sure I didn't see
all the light surrounding
before me, behind me, beside me.

At first break of dawn,
I find the storm calmed by
no other than the One who
breathed out stars, the One who
breathed out my heart.
Jesus, my King.
All this time, You've been

Higher than the walls I've built,
deeper than where I've fallen,
stronger than the waves that beat me,
This is the peace You bring.
Whole, pure, true.
And in this peace I'll stay,
every moment my mind is fixed on You,
every second that I trust You.

This peace sheds light on what's
before me, a path.
Beside me, still some questions, but no more fear.
Behind me, goodness chases. Mercy embraces.

There are ears that hear me,
I am surrounded.
Mighty arms to save me,
I am surrounded.
I just need to learn that I
am surrounded, and this
is how it always will be,
and I will choose to see it.

A perfect peace surrounding.
Before me, beside me, behind me.
Wrote this spoken word poem for a church event addressing anxiety, and how we can find perfect peace in Jesus.
Sofia Paderes Sep 2020
You have carved for yourselves a home
in the crooks of my arms,
where the beats of my chest come steady,
in the spaces reserved for my 2am thoughts,
your laughter echoes over and over and
my dreams have turned red, yellow, black.

I don’t know much science, but I do know
that no thick-rimmed, burnt-brow whitecoat
could have formulated a theory
quite like the night when you told me:

God breathes in your mountain.
Speaks morse code in the night skies.
Tastes like clear, running waters.
Dresses you in deep browns, floating gold.
Smells like first harvest, grass just rained on.

Honest and wide-eyed, you tell me it’s
all too intricate, all too alive
to be woven by a wooden fingered god.

Your tongues dance the languages
that you’ve conquered but not colonized.
I am unafraid of stumbling on their steps
when I am held by hands that build bridges
where walls have been torn down.

You have always sent me shaking,
crying, braver,
with how you,

wake to gunfire instead of alarm clocks,
choose to wield pencils and paints and bamboo song,

how you,

who have seen the flesh of your flesh
wrapped in a red not made of beads or cloth,
walk hostile streets with your fists and prayers,
hearts welcoming a shattered sky.

How you,

have never met strangers
without bombs in their back pockets,
yet aren’t afraid of my nakedness
sharing soap, sharing soup

with you,
a people,
our people,
my people.

Born of sun, born of earth
beaded bodies native to heaven,
your eyes constellations, maps
for the lost feet
finding roads to forgiveness,
finding roads to forgiveness.
Sofia Paderes Jun 2020
Don't fight the thunder when it comes,
let go your brick and brush.
Sop up the graying clouds with
every bit of lung, step
away from your paint.

Your labor
has always been in vain.

Surrender your body to the wind,
trust its wings, trust its landing.
Watch closely
come the tearing of the torrents,
don't be afraid
of what washes ashore.

Allow every strike of lightning,
let your bones shake themselves brittle.
You will not die.
You will not die.

Breathe in the roaring waves,
slowly sink to its depths.
Avoid the struggle if you can,
and let it be so.
Let it be so.

And when all has billowed over,
keep open your eyes
keep open your fists
and know that all this
is where spring begins.
Prompt: A poem your younger self needed to read.
Sofia Paderes May 2020
Could it be that, for every year since
the day you stopped knocking

I have noiselessly slid in
a stopper, a stone, a slipper

Mistaking your reaching for the key
as a challenge, not a warning?

I've patted myself on the back
for making it out (but with a foot by the corner)

Just in case you one day decide to swing wide
and that I'm worth a thank you, come again.
My friend JM and I are back to our weekly poem challenge! This week's prompt was doors, a poem about a lost friendship.
Sofia Paderes Apr 2020
Tell me once more that my faith is blinding,
and I will show you the shadows
that have stayed by my side all these days,
recite to you every word
Fear has whispered in my sleep,
point out every drop of rain, yet

my eyes will still gleam with the dawn I see
breaking behind the clouds.
Sofia Paderes Feb 2020
Even though the rhythm
of your footsteps has left
in my mind echoes resounding,
I did not so much as flinch
when I heard you breathing
in between beats.

I'm sorry for shuddering, but
blood has boiled
my nerves numb
muddied everything I see
dried out my tongue
and though I launder
your shirts every week,

I still don't know what you smell like.
Prompt: Losing one of your senses. This poem is about a time I wasn't okay with one of my parents and as a result, I'd become immune to their expressions of love and affection.
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